Sunday, May 31, 2020

Trail's end

And here we are 777 posts later, and My Year of Living Rangerously has come to a close.  

Today I retire from the National Park Service.

So here's an interesting thing: This afternoon I was lounging around the house, just running-down the clock until my 5:00 pm retirement from the Park Service. On the Mall we've all been teleworking because of covid and I've been working from home for the past two and a half months.  Retiring in this vacuum was pretty anticlimactic...and a little bit sad.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went off over my head.

Before I knew it, I was walking out the door, in uniform (with facemark and anti-spit goggles) and making a bee-line to nearby Antietam National Battlefield, where I spent so many happy years.
I wasn't exactly sure what my plan was.

I got out of the car at the visitor center and spotted a family sitting on the steps of the New York monument, which overlooks much of the battlefield.  I headed toward them.

The day was perfect - 73 degrees, mostly sunny, a crystal-blue sky with puffy clouds, and my beautiful South Mountain looking down at us.

What followed was an impromptu 15-minute Q&A program.  They were enthusiastic and asked some great questions, and I was really bringing down the interpretive thunder, we were having a ball.

The dad was one of those people who think that the Battle of Antietam ended in a the time that I was done with him, he was convinced that it was a decisive Union victory.

I went out on my terms, and it was great to be a Ranger that these nice people will remember.

Thanks for staying with me as this blog progressed through 14 years of rangering. Some years I was posting like fury, and there were also a few years were the blog lay almost dormant.  

The ebb and flow of my entries was directly related to my enthusiasm for the places that I was working.  Antietam was responsible for hundreds of posts.  Those were happy days for me, as was my recent 60-day detail at Monocacy National Battlefield which was responsible for the wealth of posts and videos from January and February of this year.

These past six years in Washington DC on the National Mall were a different story altogether.  The daily five-hour commute would color any experience...and the bottom line is - I'm a "cannonball ranger", battlefields are where I belong, and where I am happiest.

"Power of place" is what works best for me as an interpretive Park Ranger; to be able to point to a spot on the ground and say "Here is where the 16th Connecticut was rolled up by A.P. Hill's division, or, here is the spot where McCausland was surprised by veterans Union soldiers when he was expecting only militia.  The immediacy of the place is exciting  for me, and exciting for the visitor...there is just no substitute for that experience, and you just don't get that on the National Mall.

So, my career had its ups and downs, but nonetheless, through it all, I got to be a US Park actual American icon.  Putting on that uniform every morning was a transformative experience, and the responsibility that went with it was was the joy.

Being a Park Ranger for the National Park Service was, professionally, the thing of which I am most proud, and what I think was, next to my military service, my most important contribution.

It was worthy work, and I gave it my very best.  The greatest thrill, and the thing that I thought was of the most significance, were the times that I was able to fire the imagination of a child.  A trip to Gettysburg when I was nine started me on this journey, and I was glad to start other boys and girls on theirs.  An active interest in our history can inspire an active interest in citizenship, and that's the job of all of us adults - to inspire children to be the best citizens that they can be.

I've enjoyed the job, and the reporting of it in this blog, and I hope that you enjoyed those reports.

I keep other blogs which you may find interesting:
as well as some others.  Tune in, you may enjoy them.

Very best wishes to all of you, and thanks for your company as we side by side, hiked the Civil War trail together.

Your pal,

Mannie Gentile
Park Ranger (ret.)


tradgardmastare said...

Bon Voyage and thank you!

Todd Berkoff said...

Congrats Mannie! What are your plans for retirement? Will you be volunteering at Antietam?

Mannie Gentile said...


Probably not Antietam, but definitely Monocacy. I also want to get back to being an artist. Regardless of what I do, you can be sure that I'll be having fun. By the way, my blood pressure has gone down thirty points since deciding to retire!

Matt said...

Congratulations,Mannie. My family and I had the pleasure of taking your tour at Antietam a few years ago. I lurk at your blog, but this is the first post.

Unknown said...

Happy retirement. I met you once at Antietam which I enjoyed. I have also very much enjoyed your blog. I so appreciate what you and many others do in the NPS.

Unknown said...

Wishing you the best on retirement. Your posts have been well appreciated by this guy.